Calm down, Europe

There’s a prevalent storyline about the European Union in the air: After the refugee crisis, Brexit, the toxic hissing by renegade members Hungary and Poland, and a sluggish vaccine rollout, it is only a matter of time before the European Union comes undone.

So far, the gloom-and-doom crowd has been wrong. With the United Kingdom finally gone, the bloc’s borders strengthened, the East European rebels placated by new EU spending, and vaccination rates picking up, the EU looks like it is here to stay.

What’s more, in the navel-gazing Brussels bubble, this is not only an occasion for a sigh of relief but a vindication of the EU’s overarching culture of historic optimism.

As a result, the usual suspects are at it again. Less than two decades after the Convention on the Future of Europe, which was supposed to deliver a constitutional document acceptable to popular majorities in member states (which it didn’t), and seven years after another attempt to “democratize” the EU’s functioning through the system of Spitzenkandidaten (which was supposed to provide more accountability and transparency to the process of electing the president of the European Commission but was abandoned after the 2019 elections), the Commission, the European Council, and the European Parliament are convening a new Conference on the Future of Europe.

The event, running until the spring of 2022, is being held mostly online. Its goal is to provide an opportunity for Europeans to offer their views of what the EU’s priorities should be and what future reforms it needs. Meanwhile, the “three institutions” promise that they will “examine swiftly how to follow up effectively.”

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